Assessing the Impact of Conservation


Dr. Eric Dinerstein

Threats like climate change, armed conflict, and a scarcity of resources—compounded by globalization— complicate today’s conservation efforts. To meet these growing challenges, WWF and the conservation community must refine established techniques while exploring new approaches. WWF’s team of scientists leads the effort to identify the most effective conservation strategies using “impact evaluation,” a new application of the scientific method that draws upon best practices in the medical and education sectors.

What WWF Is Doing

Impact Evaluation Critical for the Future

WWF scientists believe that impact evaluation is critical to the future of conservation science. Leveraging our long-standing field presence around the globe, our extensive network of respected scientists, and a variety of collaborative relationships with organizations, governmental agencies and academic experts, WWF uses state-of-the-art methods to study key conservation strategies and test their claims. By rigorously documenting the biological and social effects of each strategy, explaining variation in their outcomes and, identifying successful strategies, WWF scientists hope to identify the keys to successful conservation.

Evidence-based Approach

Overfishing, coral reefs

Through our work, we systematically measure the impact of our efforts by comparing project sites against parallel “control” sites outside project areas. This evidence-based approach tracks projects over time and helps determine why some strategies are successful and others are not, encouraging more tailored solutions instead of one-size-fits-all strategies.

WWF is initially applying this method in the Coral Triangle and Namibia, and in our work related to forest certification. Our work seeks answers to tough questions:

  • How has the creation of marine protected areas affected impoverished local communities and coral reef diversity?
  • Which economic and environmental factors can lead to successful community-run conservancies?
  • When and how has certification of forests helped secure the biodiversity of those systems?